*Disclaimer: the author of this article does not agree with any comments made by J.K. Rowling. On the contrary, she believes transgender lives matter and should be heard.*
When we are younger and still developing our beliefs and opinions, we read several articles, books, social media posts without thinking how they are affecting us. We receive so much information at the same time and we tend to forget to filter out the irrelevant, the hateful, and the misinformed pieces of writing that we come across. As we grow up, we begin to understand how harmful non-critical reading can be. College is the perfect time to become aware of your choices and become a critical reader.
Social media has become most people’s resource for information on current events; a lot of us read it as if it were our newspaper. We carefully choose who we want to follow based on their likes, dislikes, beliefs, and opinions. Still sometimes we may come across ignorant, harmful, or misinformed information and it is important we disregard it or read it knowing it will not have accurate information. The same should happen with everything we decide to read.
How do we decide what to read? By becoming critical readers. The University of Toronto created a very detailed document explaining what critical reading is. In it they explain this type of reading is to form judgments about how a text works by analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating what it says. A critical reader should focus on what the text does and what it means by asking themselves different questions such as “what kinds of reasoning and evidence are used?" or “what are the underlying assumptions?" This will serve the reader to question the text’s assumptions and arguments, interpreting the meaning in context.
In college, you will be provided with the tools and strategies to become a critical reader. You will learn to analyze texts and understand the importance behind those words. Teachers will encourage you to read articles, documents, stories, by authors who have done their research and who know what they are talking about. The main goal, at the end of the day, is for you to build your own belief system and have strong opinions. But this can only be done by being capable of criticizing or disagreeing with the information you are receiving.
This critical way of reading should be taken beyond the academic limits and we should apply it to the readings we decide to do for our pleasure. Many authors have written texts that are very controversial to the time and age. A more recent example is the case of J.K. Rowling. After her incessant online argument on transgender lives, she has decided to write a book “about a murderous cis man who dresses as a woman to kill his victims." A mere reader would simply take the book as it is. But a critical reader would analyze the context and the meaning, and know she wrote this book to stand by her very harmful opinions. It is an example of how certain authors take advantage of their power to simply perpetuate their hateful beliefs.
Those of us who are lucky enough to attend college have the tools to realize what these sorts of texts can do to society and how they can affect certain individuals. We can analyze it, question it, and evaluate it. While those who do not have the resources will not know the connotations a book like this carries. This is why you need to take your college experience as the perfect time to become a critical reader. Take advantage of what your teachers say in class and how they encourage you to read articles, documents, and books. Do not just take words because they come from a well-known author. Take the time to question it and question yourself.
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